People Like Us, Jazz Quartet
Nolita Tavern, February 23, 2003:
I drive into Manhattan and park downtown on Spring Street. I am going to Nolita Tavern, which is on the corner of Spring & Mott St. I am going to see a great jazz quartet, People Like Us. I get a chance to speak to Howard, the proprietor of Nolita Tavern. Sunday night is jazz night at Nolita Tavern. The tavern is ideally situated with doors that open to the sidewalk for additional table seating immediately outside. The upstairs room accommodates 80 patrons, with an additional downstairs room for 30, which features a large screen T.V. to view the entertainment upstairs. Howard hopes to increase the jazz audience and I can see this easily happening as the weather improves. Having designated People Like Us as the house band, Howard has positioned himself well for success.
I get a quiet few minutes to chat with pianist and composer Joel Forrester. His compositions and arrangements comprise the body of work played by the band. To view the interview with Joel Forrester, just click the link at the end of this review.
People Like Us starts playing at 7:00 P.M. The first song, “Do Do,” is from the 1997 CD, “No…Really!” This song was written for Do Do Marmarosa. This tune is a bright, upbeat bebop composition. Claire Daly on baritone saxophone and Joel Forrester on piano, play the interesting melody line together. Claire has a robust tone and takes a great first solo in the upper register. Claire hits occasional lower register notes for contrast and texture. Dave Hofstra on standup bass gets his turn to solo and cooks. Joel and drummer Peter Grant perform answer/response solos, returning to the melody line in-between choruses. Peter drives the sound with crisp clean triplets on the ride cymbal and occasional reverse stick for that precise snare attack.
The next song, “Hot & Tot,” is a new composition from Joel. The melody is playful and happy, with both Claire and Joel joining in unison. Dave has a solid walking bass filling out the bottom. Joel’s piano solo develops the melodic theme, adding some bluesy attributes for color. Claire takes a ‘bari’ solo with bite and growl! The melodic changes provide a nice musical platform for Claire to continue to feature the baritone sax. Peter displays good dynamic control on the drums, sometimes loud for 4 measures and then soft again, back and forth.
The third number is, “No Praise For Julie.” The drums start off mysteriously with timpani sticks to round and mute the percussive notes. The music develops into a slower tempo bop tune. Claire and Joel each play the melody together. Dave has a nice succinct walking bass and takes an outstanding solo. Claire continues to honk on the ‘bari’ featuring nice arpeggios through the melodic changes. Joel takes a curiously creative piano solo, embellishing on the melody line. His notes glisten with energy! Joel vamps on the melody with skillful arpeggios and colorful chord compliments. Peter solos on drums demonstrating a strong left hand, smooth double time rolls and inventive paradittles between the tom-toms and the bass drum.
The next composition is called, “After You Joel.” Joel comments that it’s not about him. Joel adds that this venue provides the ability to perform the band’s established tunes and facilitates a musical workshop to develop his new compositions. This new song is very quick and upbeat. There is a challenging melody line and excellent walking bass. The melody develops as Joel comps dissonant and consonant chord melodies behind his hot composition. Piano arpeggios jump gleefully all around. Joel’s piano solo occasionally returns to the melody and is playfully creative in an answer/response form with the left and right hand. The bass solo is coherent and expressive. Dave Hofstra is able to maintain a keen balance between melodic content and rhythmic attack on the standup bass The drums feature hi-hat triplets and reverse stick on the snare to clearly define the bright tempo. Peter takes a strong drum solo showcasing excellent rolls, cymbal crown accents, and cut-time tempo changes for dynamic contrast.
Song five is called, “Mother’s Day.” The ‘bari’ and piano develop the melody line in harmonic unison. The tempo is slow and sensual with seasoned brush technique on the drums. There is a clever tempo change to a Latin Cha-Cha. Claire displays a nice ‘fat’ tone on the sax as she develops the melody. Her solo is in the middle to upper register with flowing lines and arpeggios. The melodic composition moves through creative modulations and beautiful voicings. The drummer’s brushes, walking bass, and piano vamping demonstrate the superior cohesive ensemble blend as the piano and ‘bari’ enhance the melody. The bass and drums perform an answer/response solo. The hi-hat is crisp and the brushwork is soothing with open hi-hat accents and occasional cut time thrown in for dynamic emphasis.
The final song of the first set is, “Skirmish.” Dave Hofstra has additionally named the tune, “Squeamish.” This new composition depicts a playful circus atmosphere with a touch of Polish color to make it more unusual. The tempo is 5/4 meter with a snare routine and piano melody that are very creatively unique. The melodic change leans toward a mysterious musical feeling.
The second set starts off with a tune called, “Two Sisters,” from the “Oh…Really!” CD. The melody moves between dissonance and consonance and is developed by Claire and Joel. Joel’s piano solo is bright and happy with a syncopated chord melody inserted at random. Dave takes a great bass solo with thoughtful note choices and meter variations. There are stops to feature the drummer’s tastefully syncopated breaks and cymbal work. Peter demonstrates the decorous use of rests throughout his articulated drumming.
The next musical composition is called, “Just Like Him.” It starts with a slow rolling calypso style intro. The staggered meter feels like musical stumbling with nice spaces contributing to an authentic island feel. Dave’s bass solo works nicely with hi-hat and accented piano triads. Peter solos double time and cut time on the trap set. Claire cleverly develops the melody in the mid range of the baritone. There is very interesting ensemble playing between bass solo breaks.
The next song, which is new, is called, “Nostalgia For It’s Own Sake.” Peter uses timpani mallets on the drums to showcase a creative sizzle and ride cymbal effect. The song develops a slow moving progression over a laid-back bop tempo. Joel’s piano solo encompasses long melodic runs with creative arpeggio bursts and nice left hand vamping. The bass walks and the drums dance on succinct ride cymbal triplets and clean left hand rolls. The ‘bari’ honks low, displaying nice dynamic sensitivity on the solo, ascending through the middle to upper register playfully. The piano and drums have an answer/response passage with Peter executing confident hand to foot syncopation.
The next song is, “The Baker’s Bounce.” Joel solos on the piano introduction, which is bright and happy. Claire and Joel develop the melody in harmonic unison. Claire takes a tremendous ‘bari’ solo, moving to the middle register. The piano solos on the melody. The bass walks strongly, complimenting the drummer’s crisp triplets. There is a very sweet clarity to the band’s sound. Dave’s bass solo is staggered, playful, inquisitive and a clever contrast to the smooth melody.
The last song of the set is, “Zen Soviet Blues.” The intro employs cymbal rolls and bass arpeggio runs. The piano and bass play the melody together. There is an unusually long melody line with the piano and bass creatively weaving up and down slowly in unison. Everyone together plays slow and deliberate through delicate and thoughtful melodic development. The ‘bari’ solo is whimsical and bluesy through the middle and upper registers. The bass solo is excellent, complimented by triplets on the cymbals and occasional piano chords. As the song comes to an end, the quartet exhibits a smooth blend of cymbal sounds, precise bass note choices, and the slow melodic feel of the ‘bari’ and piano in melodic unison.
People Like Us puts on a tremendous show tonight. The band is very talented and generates an especially positive vibe in this tavern setting. People Like Us at Nolita Tavern is a great evening of original jazz composition and tremendous individual solo musical creativity. I encourage everyone to come on Sunday night to see a great show! People Like Us will be featured here for the near future. Please come out to support great jazz in a comfortable and relaxed setting. Nolita Tavern, 30 Spring Street, corner of Spring & Mott St., in Manhattan.
Please click the link below to view the Joel Forrester interview!
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